Very well written post about a paradigm shift happening right now

I was truly impressed with this post by Jen Richards…she has recognized and chronicled an event that will later be looked back on as a true moment in history.

Will you find yourself on the right side?

From Piers Morgan to Stephen Colbert: How Janet Mock is redefining history


The tide has turned.

The media’s treatment of and engagement with trans people is now moving in another direction, and we are in the middle of a historic moment that will be looked back upon and recognized as a turning point.

It’s worth bearing in mind from the outset that historic moments are greater than their actors. History seizes upon some often singular aspect of a person or time. It uses them to tell a story, a story that exists in a way that no individual in their inevitably contradictory complexity can. Making history requires more than a person. It demands the right person, with the right story, at the right time, in the right place, in the right context and with the right support. It is precisely the collision of such utterly unpredictable and uncontrollable factors that makes for a moment that can be recognized as historic.

We are having such a moment. And the person at the center is Janet Mock.

Janet Mock is a transgender writer and advocate whose first book, the memoir Redefining Realness, details a truly American story. Its poor heroine winning independence, success, and love through intelligence, determination, and hard work makes it timeless, while its portrait of a society grappling with issues of fragmented families, race, drug addiction, abuse, sex work, poverty, sexual orientation, and gender identity make it more timely and relevant than anyone expecting a “transgender memoir” could possibly predict.

Mock recently taped an appearance on Piers Morgan Live, her first interview outside of the “bubble” of social justice circles and sympathetic peers. There’s little about the interview itself that would presage the coming fiasco. It is clumsy and awkward, but utterly predictable. The whole of the exchange can be summarized as “I can’t believe you used to be a boy,” an approach to which trans people are forced to become inured.

Some viewers would have gawked along with Piers Morgan, some would learn, hopefully a few would buy the book, and trans people would have seen it as little more than a teaching moment and another small step forward.

And here we have the first history-provoking accident. The producers chose not to air the segment for nearly a week, and it happened to air the very night of Janet Mock’s book-launch party. Many of Mock’s most ardent supporters and closest friends were together celebrating, away from any televisions. None saw the segment, the way the producers had edited it, or the graphics they used.

However, all of us saw Twitter. We saw the official show feed ask the question“How would you feel if you found out the woman you are dating was formerly a man?” And we saw the reactions of our community, as outrage poured in on social media. Janet was not alone that night, and in this heightened context of solidarity and celebration, she, along with actress Laverne Cox, snapped a photo summing up the collective reaction to the way producers has framed the interview.

Then, for some inexplicable reason, Piers Morgan himself jumped into the fray, eventually dismissing trans people as “enraged” and “stupid” and saying he would “deal with” Janet Mock the next night.

How do we explain why someone with a primetime show on a major network, someone with 3 million followers, would feel bullied by a young author promoting a first book, and her 17,000 followers?

What happened that night happened because of a larger unspoken context, because of what had been happening for years in countless other ways at a smaller scale, to Piers himself and undoubtedly to countless of his peers and colleagues.

Cisgender people have been confused and threatened by trans people, by anyone not conforming to inherited and unquestioned gender norms. Straight people have been uncomfortable with different sexual orientations, or even the implication of such possibilities. White people have been anxious around black people, any people of color, and afraid of discussions about racism, its history, and their ongoing complicity in it. Men have been scared of women, their power, and their refusal to remain the second sex.

In short, those with power have known that they’re losing their exclusive hold on it.

The reactions to the realization of such loss range widely, from fear to compassion to humor. We can see three embodiments of points along the spectrum in Bill O’Reilly, Piers Morgan, and Stephen Colbert: the conservative, the liberal, and the parody.

Next to Bill O’Reilly’s reactionary politics, Piers Morgan is a “good guy,” a classical liberal and self-appointed ally. We can forget he’s another rich, straight, white guy with a huge platform. Likewise, Stephen Colbert can make fun of both Bill O’Reilly and Piers Morgan, the entire edifice of egomaniacal white male privilege, while still benefiting from it himself.

As the mediocre middle, Piers Morgan can lean in either direction. He could have reacted to the backlash against the initial interview with humor and openness, more Colbert-like. Instead, he went full O’Reilly, indignantly framing himself as a victim and revealing an astonishing blindness toward the real power dynamics at play. At least with O’Reilly, there’s a smug self-awareness of the theatrics at play. Morgan seemed to honestly believe he was the victim.

This happened—was able to happen—only because of the wider cultural anxiety around difference and the ever-loosening grasp of power by those constituting the invisible “normal” by which all else is defined.

In this system, women are less than men, black is less than white, and trans is less than cis. In this world of less, Janet Mock’s more is simultaneously a novel wonder and discomfiting threat. It must be controlled. Dignity is not innate for the less, but rather bestowed. Piers Morgan, as an embodiment of the liberal, compassionate aspect of power, did the “right” thing by giving Mock space, by allowing for difference. When such an allowance was not simply accepted with unqualified gratitude, it evoked every anxiety around the place of that difference.

When he had Janet Mock back on the next night, it was for one purpose: to address a threat to power. Morgan’s second interview, little more than a public tantrum, did not go as planned however. And here we see the moment the tide turned:

In this moment, Janet Mock and Piers Morgan are historical actors playing out a dynamic centuries in the making. The most perfect possible embodiment of privilege in Western culture is desperately trying to reinforce the existing power structure by controlling the place of the most perfect possible embodiment of those denied privilege in Western culture.

A straight white man is trying to give advice to a black trans woman. And she doesn’t need it.

This is not historic because she said she doesn’t need his advice. It’s historic because she is telling the truth. She doesn’t need his advice. She can take care of herself, and by extension so can her community and anyone embodying difference.

If the tide turning was that rejection, the further evidence of receding waters was Mock’s appearance on Stephen Colbert.

He is no less comfortable with trans women than Piers Morgan, as has been revealed repeatedly in past jokes that clearly fall on the side of mockery rather than parody, but he’s self-aware enough to know his place in relation to such discomfort.

By siding with Janet Mock, with trans people in general, he acknowledged that his ignorance and confusion were his problem, and that one solution was openness. His response to the anxiety was humor. As another straight white man, he can only maintain his place in the system by knowingly making fun of it, which is the beginning of a shift. Humor is the truest signal of change because it acknowledges and accepts the inevitability of such change rather than fight it.

Tides do ebb and flow. We are still in the moment, and there will be more surges in all directions. It took centuries of resistance by countless people and movements to create this particular moment, and the wider one for trans people includes Stonewall, Sylvia Rivera jumping on stage at the Christopher Street Liberation Day Rally, Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera’s appearance on Katie Couric’s show, and events yet to come.

There is still an incredible amount of work to be done, and none of this yet translates into a guarantee of safety for anyone embodying difference, much less other trans women of color. Nonetheless, an acknowledgment of the moment lends further support, and helps allow us to contextualize our actions.

The final proof of this shift in power came soon after the show aired. And though it can’t be attributed directly to the interview, the timing is far too auspicious not to get wrapped into the historical nature of the moment: Piers Morgan’s show was canceled.

Meanwhile, Redefining Realness is now a New York Times bestseller.

Jen Richards is the codirector of The Trans 100 and creator of We Happy Trans, a website dedicated to celebrating positive transgender experiences that has received national media attention, as well as the websites WTF Trans Dating,Trans Love Stories, the Chicago Trans News, and the Activism Facebook group. She’s the cohost of Sugar & Spice, an advice and news podcast, and organizer of No Boys Allowed, a group for trans feminine individuals in the Chicago area.

There’s an app for that!

Her eyes bugged out
(like reason on the run)
and spittle flew
as she waggled her sign
and bawled her slogans
like incantations.
She thought she was sharing Jesus…
she thought in vain,
as people parted
and passed her by
like the Red Sea shrinking
back from the touch
of Pharaoh’s Army tred.

But one true girl,
too young to see
her crazed and frothing fear
marched up to her
like Moses’s Staff,
and tugged at her
drab and brown mask,
until the woman noticed
and looked down,
to see what missive
the little gift of grace might impart.

“Ya know there is an app for that!”
she said forcefully!
The woman’s eyebrows crawled up
like earthworms from the light,
and the girl saw her question,
and simply answered
“For hate and meanness,
there is an app for that.

It’s called Love”.

She walked away,
and the woman was left behind,
bereft of even her hate…
but pregnant with
the path and possibility of following
where a little child will lead.


The Golden End

So blows the wind,
blowzy and loud
Tugging, tickling and
talking of life
on the water
Without boats,
without pride.

I have squirmed,
crawled, walked
and danced this far
and the air
shimmers and shivers
(a puppy wanting petted)
And She sings on the wind
to step off the end
and walk on water,
walk on Love,


So I raise my silver sail
and rise up heart first
dancing over mercury waves
and cobalt deep blue to
merge with the golden end.


Transitions, paradigm shifts, and a new Amazon originated series “Transparent”

I have observed that our society in so many ways parallels the plight of a transgender person…genetically we are one thing in our philosophies, values and foundational principles, but sadly we are another thing in the actual practical expression of those things, the living out of those things.  Just as a transperson struggles with who they are in their essence, and what they are as they live.

I think that change is in the wind, and I think there are many things that are converging to nexus and transform to a new paradigm of being and humanity.  And media is a part of that process, for it shows people, educates people to those things they would never encounter otherwise.

As my readers, if you have not had the opportunity to (knowingly) be around transgender individuals, then get a start on understanding via media.  One show that promises (so far) to give us a poignant and sensitive look is  a new Amazon project called Transparent.  Below I am posting an interview with the creator.  Give it a whirl, and while you are at it, use Netflix to catch Hit & Miss.  Among other projects, these are good resources in that they do not trivialize, sensationalize, sexualize or dehumanize transgender individuals.

It is pretty amazing really…when you simply lay aside gender as a “qualifier”, you will quickly find yourself knit together with someone (or repulsed by them) simply on the basis of their character and essence and soul…as it should always be.

May the change come soon!

PS:  the blog TransHollywood originated this interview…thanks to them and cudos.


TH Interview: Jill Soloway Creator of the Amazon pilot “Transparent”

* note. it is a goal of Trans Hollywood to ask trans-specific questions in the industry. This is the first. Given Jill’s answers we will hold on talking to more members of the pilot/Amazon until it is picked up and fleshed out. 


Jill Soloway is the writer and director the new Amazon pilot “Transparent” described as ” a psychosexual comedy about a dysfunctional LA family with serious boundary issues.” It was brought to the attention of Trans Hollywood as Jeffrey Tambor plays a transgender person struggling to come out to their three adult age self-absorb children. While the pilot is getting very good reviews we have many questions from a trans perspective. We are very happy to talk to Jill, who also wrote and directed the incredible “Afternoon Delight” which was just made available on DVD and Digital Download

Watch Transparent on Amazon 
Watch Afternoon Delight on Amazon

TH: Hi Jill. The first thing we want to know is how Jeffrey Tambor’s character Mort/Maura self identifies. Is this a show featuring a transitioning trans woman? 

Jill: If Amazon orders the series, we’ll sketch out the first season in a more detailed way. We’re consulting with some great trans women (Jenny Boylan and Zackary Drucker) to help tell Maura’s story. We’re absolutely heeding the call for accurate media representations of the trans community in media. In addition, beyond the Maura character, if we get picked up, we plan to use trans actors in major roles in multiple storylines.

TH: What inspired you to create a show about a trans woman? Is it based on anything or anyone in your life?

Jill: We all have so many friends and family who are gay, trans and otherwise ‘other’ that it makes a perfect metaphor for all of the ways we evolve as humans. Ultimately, the story we’re telling is about how so many parents, kids, brothers and sisters don’t stay put in a way that makes it convenient for the people in their families. Anxiety, boundaries, memory, inheritance – plus comedy – are some of the themes of this series.

I’m also inspired by the idea that trans storylines teach us about gender equality for all. As a feminist, I see strict gender roles and misogyny and as a close cousin of homophobia / transphobia. I think a lot about the interconnectedness of gender-related oppression. My hope is that in exploring transgender themes, we will illuminate issues that are not only relevant to trans people, but to feminists, queers, women, men, and all people in between.

TH: We have to tell you that we are always critical of a cis man playing a transitioning trans woman instead of using a trans actor. Why was Tambor cast and what do you think he will bring to the role?

Jill: I have great faith in Tambor, and see his approach to the character as rooted in a humanistic, dignified portrayal. He’s such an astonishingly gifted actor and was the person I always had in mind for the role. As I mentioned above, the trajectory of Maura’s trans identity has yet to be fully planned — her journey may not necessarily lead to a medical transition.

TH: What are you reading? Were any books or other research particularly helpful in writing this character?

Jill: I love Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. It’s so exciting to see such an expansive, detailed, feminist, badass perspective laid out so beautifully. We’re also reading Kate Bornstein, Susan Stryker, Jan Morris and Jennifer Finney Boylan, as well as every blog and website out there.

TH: Are there any trans cast or crew on the pilot? We saw transgender people doing background work in the support group scene. 

Both the producers and I are looking forward to including transgender people in all departments, both in front of and behind the camera. Transgender people are especially marginalized in the area of employment, and it is Transparent’s intention to create as much opportunity as possible to support the community that it depicts.



Updates and another amazing, informative article

Yesterday we went to see my mom all day.  We left early in the morning around 4, and got in down there in time to get some yummy breakfast and then off to see her.  We took her to the mall, and in the process she discovered that she could actually make a trip via the transportation system by herself!  She was thrilled to experience some greater liberty and freedom…she is in assisted care due to a stroke.

I was reflecting on how she felt, and could empathize so deeply with her new hopes of freedom.  Though she does not know it, I too have been “bound” by genetics, and remanded to my own version of her wheel chair.  But this last week, I finally received my hormones from my doctors, and we celebrated together with cries of joy and some tears by me too, as I felt I could not contain my hope and my hope and my Hope!  One of my doctors is moving with her husband, and when she told me I was sad and felt a keening sense of loss.  But Lady Grace is soooo amazing, and knows all things.  The Father and Jesus and Her are watching over me with love and joy and care, and they brought a new doctor in, and she is exactly who I am ready for in this next phase

She is dynamic, bright, and has interned under another doctor who has helped other transgender women to transition.  She had been wanting to have her own to work with and use what she had learned, so she is totally jazzed to be working with me and is nearly as passionate about things as I am

I feel the right hormones inside, I feel them waking the centers and places that just ached, pined, and wept my whole life, starved of food but required to be present.

Hmmm…let me do a new post for the article/interview


A letter I wrote to Max Kellerman

I like podcasts…I like sports talk radio…and I listen often to the Max and Marcellus show on ESPN radio.  Max Kellerman made some ignorant comments in a recent show.  Here is my letter I wrote to him.  If you would, take time to read it and think…you may have done something similar without knowing it.

Dear Max:

I am a fan, and regular listener to your show via podcast.  If you passed me in the street, you would never know I was not assigned at birth to female, though I have always been (and identified as, from earliest memory) female-identified.  Similarly, if I chose to cross-dress as a man, you would have no idea that I was a female…unless you talked to me, got to know me and were open-minded enough to understand that I am not trying to fool anyone or clown anyone.

I lead with that, because in discussing Michael Sam this week, you had a horribly unaware, blind and ignorant moment where you indulged in the assumptions thinking-wise that have resulted in the assault and murder of literally millions of trans-women in our nation and around the world.  Let me remind you:

You went from talking about how there were already gay players in the locker room, who could not be open about who they were for fear of being ostracized (or worse), who were functioning as good people and good team mates, and that it was silly to think that this ability to have self-control and decorum in the work place would magically evaporate if it were to become acceptable for someone to be openly gay.  Your comments were spot on, cogent, and well thought out, as they usually are.

I was horrified when you segued to your experiences in NYC, when a young man when you recounted how you and your friends would go hang out around where “transvestites” were, and try to see if you could figure out which ones were “trying to fool you intentionally”.  Marcellus made noises of agreement and then you went on to say essentially that you could understand the violent and even murderous reaction of a person who was attracted to another person that they thought was one gender, and then when finding out they had the genetalia of another gender felt the need to physically assault them and often even murder them.  While you were not advocating this, you were indeed issuing them a “get out of jail free” special circumstances card…the implication clearly was that if one person fooled another person in this way that the one who fooled the other deserved whatever they got.

Then, you went back to discussing the issue of sexual orientation, and even made an analogy to the situation of racially discriminated people from years ago…so called “high yellow” people who would try to pass as white, to avoid discrimination, violent assault, and murder…and you decried the results that happened to them when they were outed as black.

Max…omg, how do you not see the elephant in the room here?  You told me, and millions of human beings like me that we deserved whatever we got.

Well…here is what we get:  If we go out, and be who we are right from the beginning, we get rejected and abused and bullied and policed by the vast majority of people we meet.  We are called faggot, queer, and other horrible names, despite the fact that a transsexual is not the same as a transvestite.  Did you know that?  A transvestite is a gender identified male who was assigned male at birth chromosomally, who has a sexual fetish to dress and act as a woman for sexual gratification with another man whose sexual preference is other men.  A transvestite could indeed be called a faggot or queer (why they need to be insulted for that is beyond me), but a transgender woman, or a transsexual woman is far different…she was assigned male at birth, but as always seen herself and understood herself as female.  For her, if her sexual preference is men, she is heterosexual.  For her, to dress female is normal.

Unfortunately for her, she will be bullied from the start…usually first by her father who thinks she is a pussy or a faggot or a Nancy boy…he will be her first and worst bully.  He will usually try to toughen her up via verbal abuse and often with beatings because he feels so inadequate and threatened that a transgender human being was the result of his intercourse with his wife, rather than a “real boy” or a “real girl”.  He got a freak…and he must unmake that freak ASAP.

What he doesn’t understand is this:  gender is hardwired in the brain, and no amount of bullying, beating, abuse or shaming will ever change anything about the child’s gender.  What it will do, however, is drive the child into depression, and in nearly a majority of cases, suicide attempts and actual suicide.  It will drive the child to drugs and other harmful things common to any child who is abused.

Then there is the little girl’s mother…who will exclude her from the world of women and deny her the socialization and love and teaching she needs, that any little girl gets from her mother naturally.  I could go on, but you are a father aren’t you?  Imagine if you will the way your daughter would react if you started treating her like a boy, and pretended that she always was a boy, and shamed her for insisting she was not…you get the point, hopefully.

Then the child goes to school…surely you experienced being picked on for various things as a matter of course growing up?  Hurt, didn’t it?  Now imagine everyone picking on you about the most basic of things, which was beyond your ability to control?  Your gender identity.  And imagine that the only option you had was to either wear it, and be abused…or hide it, and live in guilt, shame…and fear.  Fear of exposure, and fear of someone finding out and then harming you.

And then multiply that over the years…only to hear someone say that this was wrong to happen to someone who was gay, or black…but it was understandable if it happened to “the tranny” or what you actually said “the transvestites”.

You unwittingly (I hope) dehumanized me, and millions like me…you essentially said that I deserved whatever I got, after first misgendering me with the label transvestite, which ignorantly does not describe me, and most likely did not accurately describe most of the women you used to gather with your boys to mock and jibe.

Of course, I could wear it outright…many who have done this have been literally chased from clubs, bars, parties, department stores, schools and workplaces out into the streets and beaten…badly.  Don’t take my word for it…google it.  Many more have died from these injuries, and many have flat out been murdered.  Nearly always the violence is not a clean death, but it is an assault so as to disfigure and obliterate the physical body of the girl being murdered…such as the girl a few years back who was honest with her boyfriend from the start, who was told by him that she was fine and he didn’t care, who was taken back to her home by him and loved physically and sexually, and then who was struck in the face while she slept repeatedly with a fire extinguisher until her head and face was literally beaten to a pulp and then separated from her body…because the boyfriend felt remorse over his choice…and because he needed her money and car which he stole.  She was not found for days, and when she was and the boyfriend arrested, his defense was that she was not a person, but was an “it” and had it coming to her…he was proven to be guilty of this crime, easily, and proven to have known all along…but this defense has commonly been used for decades…the freak had it coming.

Max…does anyone ever have it coming for something like this?  Or for anything else?  If a conman deceives you, are you entitled to do this to them for that deception?

I am not saying that trans individuals cover up to deceive and glory in the deceived one’s gullibility…I am insisting that the vast majority of trans individuals to the point of virtually all of us…cover up and live stealthily for survival.

See…cover up and try to pass and get found out (or outed by others which is even worse)…and get assaulted or beaten or killed…or just ostracized for the rest of  our life…or wear it loud and proud, and get assaulted or beaten or killed, and lose our jobs, our families, our friends, our lives…and be told it is our own fault for “choosing to be a freak”.

It is not a choice to be transgender…it is a choice as to what to do about it…a Hobson’s Choice.

I am not attacking you, I am not some radical freak assaulting you with my email (but even if I were, that is nothing compared to actual assault), and I am not trying to police you.

I am appealing to you, because over the years of listening to you I have believed you are smart, sensitive, and at heart a good person…and you also have a position of influence.  But only if you are able to have the blinders you wear in regards to transgender people pierced and removed…only if you would go to the actual trouble to educate yourself.  It is not hard.  You could very easily Google Janet Mock, Julia Serrano, Autumn Sandine…you could go to the local LGTB center in your city and ask to be put in contact with a reputable counselor whom you could interview and become informed.

And lastly, especially in light of the death of Dr Vanderbilt (suicide over being outed by Grantland magazine), caused by an arm of ESPN…maybe you could even do a show about this topic…something basic…something to help others understand the difference between the sexual fetish engaged in my gay men called transvestitism, and the actual hardwired existential condition of being one gender in the brain and mind and heart and soul, and a different gender in the physical body.

I don’t expect an answer, or require one.  In fact, I actually think you will most likely dismiss this as some perverted rant by a freak somewhere…but as I said, I could walk right up to you dressed as either gender…who I am internally or who I was born bodied as…and you would never know, unless I wanted you to know…we live among you, walk among you, work with you…and likely you have wounded and insulted and hurt many others and not even known.

If you can live with that, God help you…if you can’t, God will help you to gain enlightenment and knowledge, and perhaps you could even be used in such a way as to help the stigma be put to death.

It is up to you.

Very sincerely,

Charissa Grace White…a fan and loyal listener, even still.

Broken Kaliedoscopes

I wrote this poem this morning, after thinking most of the day about the notion that when we seek to understand our identity, we risk losing the gestalt of our Self…reducing ourselves inadvertently as we seek to understand ourselves.  This fracturing may perhaps be necessary as a beginning, even as when we want to create an amazing dish we must first understand the components and how they go together and interact.  But ultimately, each facet, each ingredient must willingly give up the ghost of its independence, and join the unity to become married into the dish.  Otherwise, the dish fails.

We define ourselves by gender, by sexuality, by occupation, by spiritual allegiance or lack thereof, by ideal, philosophies or concept.

What if all of those things were like the stones and glass shards of a kaleidoscope?  What if they all could marry, come together, and we might actually be something far more wonderful and complex…and simple?  And what if the kaleidoscope of me was a mere shard going with the kaleidoscope of you…and you…and you…until we were a blazing mandala of God extending thoughout His universe in His hand and we would ride on Her song and shine for Their Glory forever?

This poem is about that…the idea is a deep one, and needs to be unpacked inside you for days, perhaps months or years…I know that I am understanding ingredients easily, but only just realising that they must now conjoin, and consummate this marriage of me.tumblr_mme6u64gGM1qdh7g0o1_500Bright colored stones and lacy graceful glass,
Refract the Light and bend it beautiful…
(our world is bent so Grace responded with
refracted Beauty), hand to grasp, hold hope
and twist that tube, Tender Kaliedoscope.
And wakeful bright and peering eager eyes
convert sensed input into wondrous meaning,
Glad riot glorious, such brilliant beauty
a visual symphonic concert singing.2-v4lg89The sullen bully was afraid to look,
afraid to feel, so afraid to become
a subject. His hand ragged, rudely rough,
and she, her slattern eyes sloppy with fear…

Their mouths shot stones and cannonaded curses,
cascades of clouting shouting wounding words
until I broke, until I shattered final
and glad glass, patterned fragments intricate
of my me placed just so to catch the light
and burst with grace that glowed and shone brilliant
to beauty forth with glory-shine and SHINE…tumblr_mzxm204mls1rw5ktmo1_500

Now broken, fallen shattered, they were able
to clench at last, to fumble furiously
To grasp and rape and ravage with their fingers
and hot insinuating tones of terror…
they grab a bloody shard and cut themselves
and cut each other “proving” I was poison
reducing me to that fragmented shard
and say they named me, no more numinous.tumblr_mzzqvsLAI01s5u2cno1_500But I rebel, reject their brutal label,
and gather up the pieces of my beauty
and bring them, mourning to my tender Lady
and lay them down there, shattered and so dull
and praying, hoping, believing and knowing
She is my Mama, Warrior-Sister too
and She will integrate me intimately,
so that I coalesce to shine again
and turn in faith and love and shine in Hope
that I’m no more Broken KaleidoscopeImage 2


Constant Reader…a Request?

I love Lori Duron, who is one of the best most supportive parents I am aware of.  She has been chosen to shepherd, protect, mother and ultimately empower a wonderful child who has a great destiny.  I am so encouraged when I read her posts, and I confess that I wonder what my life would have been like in an environment like she is creating for her child.  Will you do me honor by reading the post below, and then…do your part!  Add your kindness, your strength, your passion to truly LOVE to your environment…together we can make this life better…one step at a time.


We Can Do Better, We Have to Do Better

February 13, 2014

Post submitted by Lori Duron, author of “Raising My Rainbow”

Had my son taken the Human Rights Campaign’s Youth Survey, he would have listed his gender identity as “Gender Nonconforming” and, when asked how male or female he felt, he would have had a hard time giving just one answer because he says it depends.  Sometimes he feels more like a girl, sometimes he feels more like a boy, sometimes he feels like he’s right in the middle and sometimes he goes from boy to girl and back again several times throughout the day.

My son didn’t participate in the survey because he wasn’t old enough.  He’s only seven.  From the time he was able to, he has described himself as a boy who only likes girl stuff and who wants to be treated like a girl.  During the last two years he has taken to using the term gender nonconforming to describe himself.  He has also learned to keep his gender identity private when he doesn’t feel safe sharing it.

Sometimes he dulls his sparkle because others don’t know what to make of it.  He’s had people hurl homophobic slurs at him.  He’s had peers in the school bathroom try to see if he has a penis or vagina.  He’s had adults tell him to stop being a sissy and to “man up.”  Today, he was told to “go jump off of the Tyler Clementi Memorial Bridge.”  All because my seven-year-old boy likes pink more than blue, dolls more than trucks, skirts more than pants.

It’s scary raising a child; it’s even scarier raising a gender nonconforming child.

Like the youth from HRC’s survey, my son has a complex view of gender.  He doesn’t fit into a neat and tidy gender box.  He’s not all boy and not all girl.  He’s okay with that; but the world around him isn’t.

Imagine raising a child who — according to the survey – will feel less happy than their peers; is more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol; views their life goals as unachievable; believes they have to leave home in order to be accepted; feels unsafe at school; and finds religion to be unloving.

Today, I asked my son a question from the survey.

“C.J., do you feel happy or very happy?”

“I feel very, very, very happy,” he replied.

Only four percent of gender expansive youth feel “very happy” and they have the highest rates of being “very unhappy.”  Less than half reported having an adult in their family to turn to when feeling worried or sad.  Less than one third feel like they are accepted at school – a place where they report being excluded and verbally and physically harassed.

I imagined being one of the youth from the survey and feeling unhappy, alone, rejected and unsafe.  A healthy adult wouldn’t tolerate those living conditions, but children do every single day because they have no choice.

“You’re very brave,” I said to my son seemingly out of nowhere.  He shrugged his shoulders as if to say “I know” or “I have to be” or “What are my options?”

He may be very, very, very happy now, but according to HRC’s survey, over the course of the next six years that has a high likelihood of changing drastically and dramatically.  That is not okay.

We can do better — we have to do better — for these kids.  Learn about gender; have an open heart and open mind; operate from a place of kindness and empathy, not hate and judgment; be thoughtful, not thoughtless; and care for children the way an adult should.

Please, read the survey results as found in HRC and Gender Spectrum’s report, “Supporting and Caring for Our Gender Expansive Youth,” and let’s do better, be better.


Underneath the Surface

Will you look?
There, beneath
grey quicksilver waves…
Under brown boulders
lashed by billows and tides
Wreathed in seaweed strands
of surface stuff that clings
and grasps and changes
ever in riptides and caustic currents.

Will you look?
There, I am sitting
small, quietly azul and shimmering
Circumspect in flowing thoughts
Piled up like surf
queuing to rush the beach
and show themselves
in my limpid eyes,
my  starry smiles,
my liquid laughter.

Will you choose
to grant me freedom
by limiting yours freely?
Then join me, and fly
Underneath the Surface.


Roses out of Ruins

She walked, head held high
like a servant who pilfered a sweetcake
from the grouchy old cook
(who ruled her kingdom with iron,
a slave who fancied herself sovereign).

She took their glances,
their sneers, their horror
and fashioned it with cake and hope,
and bullheaded faith

To make flower out of flour,
and freedom out of fashion,
and roses out of ruins.


Freedom Face

Attacking the barrier with faces,
we dent, crack, and bust it.
We see from our side
Progress! Advancement, baby steps.
Them? We are
Cracked, obscured, broken
But the cracks run ragged, the breaks flow deeper,
and freedom’s whisper is strong
and Insistent.


The Instrument

I dip, low…
Leaning in over these words like
She moves over her cello.


My mind moves busy,
back and forth,
a bow vibrating
over those words,
seeking for
Resonance and Mystery
latent within
waiting poised,
ready for release from
just the right
strike, touch, draw.


There!  Sound it so, clarion
and my words will
Sing in your soul like
her music o’erwhelms mine.

I rejoice, and I grieve, and I rejoice: the 2 sided coin of American Christianity

As you know if you are a regular reader, I love God…specifically Holy Spirit, whom I was introduced to as the Lady Grace by Them…and who is now to me simply Mama…”simply” lol.

I took my new name from Her knee, Charissa (Grace), and Grace.  Grace is most simply defined as that power granted to the one who asks to do what God desires.  Period.  That covers it far better than “God’s unmerited favor”.  The Greek word for grace (Charis) also translates as power.  But I digress.

If you are a regular reader, you also know how deeply I am grieved by the ugly hate and fear that emanates so powerfully from the so-called christian culture in our land.  It is harsh, exclusive, rigid, full of fear and loathing, shame-based, and ultimately is ruled by religion instead of relationship.  This is the “I grieve” part.


There is another side of the coin…in virtually every church in our land, in some private moment, in some unguarded place, Mama pops out, full of grace and power, and She extends Her hand of kindness, and therein sinners find supplication and succor, kindness and comfort.  These moments are unadorned, simple, pure, and they ooze mercy and overflow with open armedness.  Hate cannot enter therein, pride is swept away, and Humility is crowned Sovereign.

Oh my friends, I ache with memory of these, and tears overflow my eyes as I recall them…little down payments of heaven to come, and the goodness of God.

If you have had some of these you know what I mean, but if you haven’t…and you wonder what they are like?  Just picture the exact opposite of what it feels like when these mis-guided and fearful children of the King pout and shout and hate and hurt…picture the opposite of that sick feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you see someone misrepresent the God they claim to serve (but they really mean the God that serves them, their “errand boy to satisfy their wandering desires”)…picture the opposite of that cold chill that drills from their hating eyes (covering up their cowardly hearts)…picture the way that you know, deep down inside, how God’s true children would act if they really WERE from their father in heaven, saved as prodigals returned…

Yeah…we all know deep down…

I exhort you, do not lose hope in the face of hate, for those unguarded moments are real, true, and someday they will rule all.

In the meantime, let love be your guide, and hope be your heart.  Let faith be your song and grace be your crown.  Let mercy be upon your lips and kindness be your clothing.  And remember, you are not alone…Lady Grace (Mama) is with you always, and so am I, your sister Charissa Grace, as long as I draw breath.


Another thing worthy of reposting: “Cis-to-Sis: An Open Letter to Janet Mock”

I was touched so deeply as I read this piece…Preston truly states so many things that we struggle with that others would have no idea about…because they are cis.  He gets it.

And can I just say that Janet is a true heroine, and courageous as hell…thank you girl!  You give me hope in my heart of hearts.


Cis-to-Sis:  An Open Letter to Janet Mock




Image result for janet mock 2014Janet Mock

“I was scared” continues to reverberate in my mind. All too often the LGBT community is not allowed to feel safe in spaces that society claims are available to us. But this article is not about sexual orientation. Quite frankly, it isn’t even necessarily about Piers Morgan. What it is, though, is an apology to you, Janet Mock, and the entire transgender community for cis people who simply refuse to acknowledge our undeserved privilege.

As I sit and write this article, Redefining Realness is positioned on the left-side of my dining room table while my last scoop of chocolate ice cream is on the right. Blankly staring at the words on this laptop, I am constantly reminded that transgender women, particularly transgender women of color, will have their identity challenged, criticized, and policed, even from alleged supporters. And for that Janet, I am sorry. I am sorry that you and your transgender sisters (of color) live in a world that simply will not allow you to navigate in a secure, affirming, and loving space free from cissexism, misogyny, transphobia, and racism.

Like many people following your career, I was intrigued by your path to womanhood, identity, and so much more. But it is the so much more that made me rip apart the book-shaped package delivered to my desk last week, hoping it would be my embarrassment of riches: your memoir. Your book connected with me immediately and though I am cisgender, what resonated with me was your path to finding yourself. This path to identity and self-love, I have learned, is a metaphysical dilemma but it is one we can conquer.

Janet, your book will save lives. And I am sorry that self-proclaimed allies may not be able to experience that just yet. As I watched your initial segment with Morgan, I couldn’t help but to think how you must have felt in that setting: a transgender woman of color ready to discuss your first book, while all Morgan wanted to discuss was his infatuation with your assignment-at-birth. Surely you and your transgender sisters are no stranger to this invasive line-of-questioning though. Just last month, in fact, Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera were berated with media’s fixation of genitalia as if it is synonymous with or related to gender, gender identity, and gender expression.

I couldn’t help but imagine the “here we go again” mindset you must have had when Morgan began the interview with “this is the amazing thing about you: had I not known anything about your story, I would have had absolutely not a clue that you had ever been a boy, a male.” What troubled me was that he expected you to take this as a compliment – an ode to your ability to pass and operate throughout life as a “real woman”.

Janet, as you know, the more we focus on assignments-at-birth and preoccupy ourselves with transition and surgeries, the more oppression and discrimination faced by transgender people will continue to go uncovered. I can imagine you wanting to discuss how transgender people have complex and nuanced identities that go beyond gender. And I can even conceive you wanting to discuss your advocacy work regarding #girlslikeus, which has helped to save the lives of many young girls by elevating voices to ensure their visibility. But no, Morgan only wanted to mention disclosure to your boyfriend and sex reassignment surgery. And for that Janet, I am sorry. I am sorry that your lived experience was deduced to an old Maury Povich or Jerry Springer episode.

Even more, I am sorry that Morgan responded defensively on Twitter, claiming that he was disappointed in your tweets and accused you of “deliberately, and falsely, fueling some sense of [him] being ‘transphobic.’” What I learned from standing in solidarity with the transgender community is that sometimes, most times, it is best to remain silent and listen. In fact, I reckon only the worst “allies” attempt to place their feelings over those who they claim to stand in solidarity.

What frustrated me more than anything was the amount of cis heterosexual white patriarchal privilege that emanated from my television screen during Morgan’s interview of you. The problem is that no matter how much sense you made, Morgan was going to be the victim because society has taught him that he wins even when he loses. In his eyes, at least at that time, it was impossible to oppress a transgender woman of color since he has been supportive of past LGBT – or as he said, “gay” – concerns.

But if Morgan was really about supporting transgender women, he would not have constantly interrupted you, complained over his privileged feelings, told you what the transgender community should do, forced advice onto you regarding your vulnerability and fears, and blamed the transgender community and other supporters for the backlash of his initial interview with you.

Janet, you and the transgender community go through enough without constantly explaining “sex” versus “gender.” And while I understand it may be our jobs as advocates to educate, I also know it is aggravating to have our lives picked, prodded, and dissected. It is even more troublesome when you realize that your lives will be more scrutinized when you stand at the intersection of multiple identities. As I stared at the television screen, full of emotion and frustration, I couldn’t help but to examine the cissexism, misogyny, and racism pervasive throughout both interviews, though clouded with “I support you” language.

You are strong, Janet. Much stronger than I could be in that setting. Make no mistake, though, your interviews did teach me one valuable lesson: cis folk, myself included, have a long way to go before we can claim to fully stand in solidarity with the transgender community. Step one is learning when to remain silent.

Cis-to-Sis, Janet, we support you. Keep speaking your truth and redefining your realness!

Preston Mitchum is a civil rights advocate and policy analyst in Washington, DC. He has written for The Atlantic, Huffington Post, and Think Progress. Preston is obsessed with incorporating intersectional frameworks into laws and policies. Follow him on Twitter @PrestonMitchum.

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A Delightful Child’s solution to homophobia, reposting a wonderful article

Post image for Maddie Matters: A Six-Year-Old Solves The Gay Acceptance Riddle

Maddie Matters: A Six-Year-Old Solves The Gay Acceptance Riddle



My six-year-old granddaughter Madison – Maddie to her friends – is a regular one-kid think tank. She knows “gay” means girls loving girls and boys loving boys, and while she really has no concept of the “why”, she knows there are places in the world where gay people are not accepted, and people in the world who do them violence. That’s why Nana – me – writes for The New Civil Rights Movement.

Last Saturday, I was working on Sunday’sOn Our Radar column about the “Olymbians” who are competing in Sochi, and to keep her occupied, I had Maddie help me choose their photos. Before long, she began wondering aloud how anyone could be less than awestruck by these amazing women – and for the first time she began thinking about the concept of being gay.

The conversation went like this:

Maddie: (Talking about David Badash, founder of The New Civil Rights Movement.) Does your boss know I’m not gay?
Me: It really hasn’t come up.
Maddie: Am I gay?
Me: No one can answer that for someone else. It’s like asking me if you’re hungry or sleepy.
Maddie: Is there anything else you can be? Besides regular or gay?
Me: It’s called straight, not regular. And if you are thinking about Mario and Luigi or the Monster High kids, there is no “attracted to cartoon people” category at this time.
Maddie: So just the two?
Me: Well, there’s bisexual. That’s people who are attracted to both men and women, they just fall in love with a person because of who they are on the inside.
Maddie: (Thinks about this with a scrunched up face.) Do people know about bisexual? Because if we all just say we’re bisexual no one will care who you love.
Me: An excellent plan, Maddie. I think that could work.
Maddie: You should tell your boss. He could put it on his website so Russia will know what we’re doing.

So I did. And here it is, Maddie’s childlike solution to homophobia on our grownup gay website. If only I could make her dream come true….

tncrmJean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.


Go ahead…say it!
Tear me apart and
blood me with your firetongue.
You think so little
of it.
You think your right
and you’re right
but you are just a slave owner
marking time on the old plantation
before the dispossessed
find their arms, their legs
and their tongues
to speak of freedom and
walk in your world at last.


Walmart Woman of Privilege

she ran me down
with her eyes…and words
as she walked by
clutching her child frantically.
Her angular frown glowered
and she slid sideways with her heart and
threw up a covering
for her own panic…
but that covering
was a wall to me, a barrier,
and her cruel mouth and
silent slashing slap to my face
cut me, gashed me,
and left me trapped and alone
behind the barrier that
only the outcast can see and feel



She laughed as she thought about that
sideways thinker,
or was he just hungry,
the one who first thought to look past shells
and the smell of seafood…
limpets, mussels, clams, shrimp, snails,
oysters (omg shudder shiver).

Desperate, or bored?
Interested or Inspired?

No matter…what a world he opened up, what a
feast of delicate and wondrous
flavors, aromas, delights.

I lick my fingers,
and suck butter out of my
garlic escargot, and ask Lady Grace
to give me courage to look
past shells, smells, false tells,
with no fear and great inspiration
to find true treasure in everyone I meet
drawn up from
God’s Great Sea.